Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sibling Savages

We had rules growing up. Us girls were ignored when we fought but not when we pushed each other. Pushing was never allowed. That made fighting interesting-pulling someone to the ground is more challenging than having the law of physics and gravity work in your favour. We weren’t allowed to throw things either. My mother’s rationalization was that we might toss something that would be harmless if it hit the back of an unsuspecting head, but dangerous if the intended victim suddenly turned around and took a smuck in the eye. The last rule wasn’t about fighting, though I think it was made to prevent it- never date your sister’s ex.The baby in our family of five kids was male and our rules didn’t apply to him. He wasn’t the fighting kind for one thing. For another, my mother figured there was no chance of him dating one his siblings old flames. Except for a scatter poke or pinch from the youngest girl, he was generally spared our wrath.We were never told we couldn’t get dirty or wet either-and often we were both. We played in the gully and on the tracks by our home and regularly fell (or were pulled-not pushed) to the ground or into the pond, yet my mother says we were all precious darlings growing up. I suppose we were-at times. We knew how to behave in public. When my parents took us to church or out visiting we could be puffed, ribboned and frilled up-but when we were home we played hard and were hard on each other.My older sister and I fought like proverbial cats and dogs. Since we couldn’t throw things we hit one another with what ever we could get our hands on. One Christmas we each received a sewing machine. The only time I used mine was when I was smacking my sister with it. I still can’t sew a button on a shirt without flinching. There was more than one door torn off hinges in the midst of some battle and the glass panes leading to our rec room had a few body parts put through them as we tried to get at one other through some saucily locked door.While we were pretty bad we weren’t the only female scrappers in our clan. Two of my cousins fought so bad over the one window in their shared room that my aunt stormed in one day with an axe and an attitude. They thought they were gonners, they told me later. Instead of maiming the young warriors, my aunt took aim at the wall and didn’t stop until both girls had their very own window-kind of. A contractor was called and since he had to fix the wall anyway, he turned their big room into two smaller ones. They still fought-just not over a window.Clothing and foot ware was an area of non-constructive contention in our home. We were always wearing-or trying to wear-something that wasn’t ours.Many mornings one of us would sneak out to the bus stop wearing a forbidden item. If caught, the stolen clothing would be ripped off- right there in the yard. If you were sly enough to make it on the bus, you were safe- once we made it off our property we knew to behave. The rush of an ambush was part of the fun and I sometimes let a sister make it out of the house only to pounce on the front steps. Despite such mayhem, we were all quite close. Having siblings meant you always had a playmate as well as a rival- and we valued both. We rarely told on one other since we were all guilty of something. We never held grudges and no one ever really won.The fighting lessened as we aged-though I admit we fell into old patterns a time or two long after we had stopped brawling regularly.Two sisters almost beheaded one another over a pair of old, smelly sneakers long after both had graduated from high school. I smacked one sister so hard with the phone she flunked on the floor and I thought I had her killed. We had boyfriends waiting outside at the time and were much too old to be battling. I never fought (physically) with any sister after that. We can’t believe how rough we were with one another back then. While I have an only child, my sisters all have a few kids each and we get a kick out of how much the rules have changed. Fighting is forbidden altogether in this new generation-though I have witnessed a few slaps, pinches and pokes as my nieces and nephews explore the wild, wild world of siblings.The last time us girls got together we reminisced about those rough survival-of-the-fittest days and courteously agreed it was a bit much. We concluded we were trying to find our place in the world and left it at that.It wasn’t that bad I suppose, after all, we knew-and followed- the rules. Sort of. No one was pushed, (usually) no one had anything thrown at them (mostly) and as for that last rule-these lips are forever sealed.

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